Since graduating with my bachelor’s degree five years ago, I have been debating whether to enroll in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in creative writing. The idea of it sounds absolutely blissful to me–honing the craft, develop my skills, making important connections with established writers and publishers, and, of course, forcing myself to write my darn book.
Though, earning a master’s degree as a writer isn’t quite the equivalent to earning your master’s as, say, a doctor or a teacher. You might get street cred, but you’re not guaranteed more pay…or any pay for that matter. In creative writing you have to wonder, is the MFA going to be worth it?
At just the right time last year, I found an answer. I came across DIY MFA, an online community, that promotes a do-it-yourself method to attaining the skills and know-how for leading a successful writing life. DIY MFA was instigated and created by Gabriela Pereira. Pereira used the knowledge she gained in earning her own MFA to create a new set of tools to help writers succeed without going through a traditional MFA program. I got hooked on her podcast, her blog, and now her book, DIY MFA, which hits stores July 8.
Disclosure: As a member of Pereira’s Street Team, I received an advanced review copy of the book so I could share my thoughts with readers before the book launch.
The DIY MFA book is intended to help writers set up their writing lives. Pereira delivers on all aspects of writing, beginning with mastering the right mindset. She provides colorful and organized worksheets for setting goals, forming habits, and customizing your writing to fit your style and your life. As an organized, goal-setting word nerd, I love her worksheets with all my heart.
The DIY MFA method is built upon three pillars: write with focus, read with purpose and build your community. Pereira goes into great detail on each of these pillars, delivering her expertise, helpful acronyms and exercises to guide you in each area.
Write with Focus
The writing section covers everything from plot and characters to editing and revision. Pereira has several acronyms to keep in mind for many writing focuses, which makes it easy and fun to remember in your own writing.
What I like most about the writing craft portion of the book is that the sections are short but just long enough. Each chapter has several subtopics, and I can easily jump to one spot when I feel I need to work on a specific area, such as voice or point of view. The topic on revision especially inspired me to get moving on my work.
Read with Purpose
My favorite section of the book is based on the second pillar, “Read with Purpose.” I love reading just as much as I love writing, and I like having an idea of what I should be reading to improve my writing. Pereira explains a good system for choosing your reading list, carefully creating a library that will inform your work in progress.
Build Your Community
Building your community means everything from making friends with writers, forming critique groups, creating your author brand, connecting with readers, attending conferences and networking. Again, these are short sections covering specific topics, but each chapter gives you plenty of action steps and new lessons about building a following. Peirera also links to more resources for further details about websites and branding. Community is extremely important when it comes to selling your book, and she breaks down every aspect into insightful, bite-sized pieces.
Traditional MFA programs, online workshops or do-it-yourself, creative writing is a skill that can be learned in various ways. DIY MFA helped me see the beauty in that.
DIY MFA will be available July 8. Pre-order your copy here!